Short links have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way for brands to direct customers to specific landing pages or content. A short link replaces a long, unwieldy URL with a short sequence of characters. This creates a link that is easier to convey in advertising, social media posts, and other marketing.
One key consideration for brands using short links is choosing the right domain name to host them. The domain name itself becomes part of the branded link that users see. As a result, the domain can influence how users perceive the link and brand. This article will examine the impacts of domain name selection for branded short links and provide recommendations for brands.
Benefits of Branded Short Links
Short links provide several benefits for brands over long URLs:
- More memorable and easier to communicate – A short sequence like bit.ly/example is simpler than a long URL full of random characters. This makes it easier for users to remember and share the link.
- Trackable – URL shortening services allow brands to see click-through rates and other analytics about their links. This helps measure the success of marketing campaigns.
- Customizable – Short links can incorporate brand names or keywords to reflect the destination content. For example, nike.com/justdoit reflects the Nike slogan.
- Looks more trustworthy – Research indicates users find short, branded links more trustworthy than long, complex URLs.
How Domains Influence Perception
While short links offer advantages, brands must consider how the domain name hosting the link impacts user perception and behavior. Key factors include:
Trust and Security
The domain signals whether a link can be trusted. For example:
- Well-known domains like bit.ly are familiar and considered safe by users.
- Obscure or strange domains seem risky to click on. Users may worry the link contains malware.
Domain trust helps determine whether users feel comfortable clicking a short link.
A domain’s existing reputation and brand image transfers to links hosted on it. For example:
- nytimes.com conveys the prestige and reliability of The New York Times.
- Users have certain expectations when they see links from major social platforms like fb.me.
Brands want to select domains that reinforce the messaging and positioning they want.
Context and Meaning
The semantics of the domain name itself convey meaning about the linked content:
- play.com implies fun, entertainment content.
- learn.org suggests educational resources.
- Brandable domains use company names like apple.co that reflect brand identity.
The domain context helps users guess what type of content they will find at the end of a short link.
Best Practices for Domain Selection
When selecting domains for branded short links, brands should follow certain best practices:
Use a Recognizable Domain Name
Opt for an established domain over something obscure. For example, coke.com makes more sense for Coca-Cola than something generic like clicks.com. Sticking to the brand domain reinforces the company identity.
Check for Negative Connotations
Avoid domain names with negative connotations. For example, brands want to steer clear of domains related to adult content or illegal activity. Even if the link itself is harmless, the domain association could turn users away.
Pick Domains that Align with Brand Personality
Match the domain to the brand’s voice, positioning and persona. Fun brands like Taco Bell do well with playful domains like tacob.ell versus something more corporate.
Reinforce Messaging with Keywords
Domain names present a chance to work keywords into the link. Dunkindonuts.com could use dunkin.coffee/rewardextra for a promotion about reward points and coffee.
Make the Domain Brief but Descriptive
Keep branded domain names short but meaningful. Mb.company is vague while mercedes.cars/contact conveys the brand and purpose clearly.
Redirect Long Domains to a Shorter Link
For long existing URLs, redirect them to a branded short link domain. This helps simplify marketing materials without breaking old links.
Test Links Before Launching Campaigns
Brands should test short links to ensure proper configuration and avoid errors. Testing also lets brands track metrics before full launch.
Example: Starbucks Short Link Domain
Let’s look at an example of appropriate domain naming for Starbucks short links:
Starbucks wants to create a short link for a coupon promotion to drive app downloads.
Poor Domain Choice – coupon.com/starbucks-app
While descriptive, the generic coupon.com does not reinforce the Starbucks brand. The length of the path also defeats the brevity benefit of a short link.
Better Domain Choice – sbux.coffee/appdeal
This link uses sbux, Starbucks’ nickname, along with .coffee which matches the brand and product. /appdeal describes the promotion while keeping it short.
Tracking and Customization
Starbucks can use the domain sbux.coffee to create additional short links like sbux.coffee/holidaydeal. The consistent domain builds familiarity while supporting campaign tracking.
Risks of Poor Domain Selection
Using an unsuitable or problematic domain for short links poses risks for brands:
Links from odd or sketchy-sounding domains will make users hesitate to click. This defeats the purpose of creating the short link for marketing.
Negative Brand Association
Short links on domains with bad reputations or connotations may transfer those attributes to the brand identity. Brands want to avoid associating themselves with disreputable domains.
Tracking and Analytics Issues
Using multiple domains makes tracking link metrics across marketing campaigns more difficult. Brands benefit from consolidating short links under one recognizable domain name.
Higher Risk of Errors
Too many link variations across multiple domains increases potential for mistakes in configuration and link rot. Brands should standardize on domain naming conventions.
Dilution of Brand Recognition
Shifting across random domains prevents establishing brand familiarity with any particular domain. Users won’t learn to associate and recognize the brand’s link style.
Branded short links require thoughtful domain name selection to maximize value:
- Domains impact user trust, brand identity, and context conveyed by links.
- Best practices include using recognizable, relevant domains aligned with brand image.
- Testing links and controlling domain variations avoid potential errors.
- Poor domain choices can lead to lost users, negative associations, and analytics challenges.
- Consistent domain naming helps users identify and trust branded short links.
Brands should research domain options thoroughly before launching short link campaigns. With careful domain name selection, short links become a more powerful extension of the brand.